words: Mary Walsh
photos: E-Stone, Aaron Blatt, and Mary Walsh

Late last night, Snowboy Productions head honcho and Holy Bowly mastermind Krush Kulesza and leader of Mammoth Unbound as well as snow shaper extraordinaire, TJ Dawoud led a dedicated crew to the finish line of this year’s Bowly build. Overhead the dozen diggers, the sky was a motley blue-black, beautiful as it was ominous. As snowcat lights flooded the interior of the cradle–a behemoth that had taken four days to build–the guys raked and smoothed in preparation of the first day of The Fourth International Gathering of Creativity and Flow, when over 150 snowboarders would flood Mammoth’s South Park scoping lines, laying out carves, and floating over piles of snow.

By early afternoon on Monday, rakes had been shouldered, salt had set, and the course was ready. As light snow fell from the sky, the entrance area just above the massive set up filled with many of snowboarding's most talented turners and snow surfing visionaries who were reunioning, taking laps, and excitedly waiting for the chance to drop in. Bowly veterans Jesse Burtner, Austin Hironaka, Harrison Gordon and Scott Blum (whose attendance at every Holy Bowly thus far earned them the right to make the first turns in the course) readied to roll in. Sean Genovese and Jeff Keenan had a crew of Dinos in tow. Sam Taxwood, Mike Ravelson, Danimals, and Blake Paul were cruising. Brady Lem, Erik Leon, Zander Blackmon, Nick Pooch, and Nial Romanek were in town from Tahoe. CMac, Vinny, and Blake Geis were there, too, as were the ladies of Jetpack. Desiree Melancon, Zak Hale, Jake Kuzyk, Jake Olson-Elm, Lucas Magoon, Chris Roach, Mike Ranquet, Deadlung, Brandon Reis, Sam Hulbert, Riley Nickerson, Pat McCarthy, Tucker Andrews, Jaeger Bailey…. The list of attendees is long—far more than can be rattled off here. So, suffice to say that at Mammoth currently, there is a pretty insane group of snowboarders who will be laying marks into the Eastern Sierras’ soft snow and proliferating easy style throughout the week.

As the ropes dropped and the crew swarmed the set up, Holy Bowly 2016 was on. This first day was a bonus, an opportunity for all parties to get a feel for the flowing snow features and start sussing out lines. For this iteration of beloved event, this process was particularly welcome because the course is absolutely massive. The Mammoth Bowly set up is double the size of the 2014 course, which was double the size of the previous year, and which was double the size of the first year. We're not sure exactly how large a footprint that equates to, but there's a lot of real estate reserved for the sheer pleasure of making turns and launching off tranny.

Contrary to the weather report, forecasted afternoon rain never materialized and the sky turned bluebird and sunny. The snow stayed fast and over the course of a few hours, riders began etching marks into convex bumps, floating over top and hipping to the sides. Slashes sprayed slush into the air and the first attempts at figuring out the cradle went down. With every turn, the collection of snowboarders further picked apart the infinite options laid out by Unbound and Snowboy, providing just a glimpse into what is to come over the next five days.

Big thanks to Snowboy, Mammoth, Lib Tech, and Monster for bringing this week to life and stay tuned to the Holy Bowly website on Snowboarder.com, @snowboardermag, @snowboardervideo, @snowboyproductions and of course, #HolyBowly for full coverage one of snowboarding's favorite events.